Sunday, May 29, 2016

"..Winkin', Blinkin'...And Bopping Yourself In The Face..."

Been a lot of talk, actually more in the way of snark, in the past year or so about Donald Trump's eyes.

And no matter our philosophical, spiritual, sexual or political positions on the philosophical, spiritual, sexual or political issues of these times, there is one plain and simple truth that cannot be refuted, debated or denied by anyone.

The dude has white circles around his eyes.

Very seldom so blatantly obvious as to be worthy of a new Kim Carnes chart topper, but always, in one shade or another, to one degree or another, plain to see.

The conventional wisdom, when offered, tends to laser in on Trump's apparent lack of skill when it comes to self tanning.

The overwhelming temptation, at this point, of course, is to find some way to work "throwing a little shade on the Donald" into the conversation here, but, we run a classier shop than that around here.

Not to mention that it goes without saying America is about not judging people by the color of their skin.

Or colors, as the case may be.

I'm no credentialed make-up artist, nor dermatologist and I'm not one of those who ultra violet-ly tan their hide, Clyde, so I've got nothing to offer in rebuttal to the tacky tanning theory.

After watching and listening to Trump in campaign action, though, lo, these past months, there is another cause of that distinctive discoloration that occurs to me.

And I was reminded of that cause when watching the coverage of the protests and arrests in San Diego Friday outside the scheduled Trump rally.

San Diego (CNN)Police clad in riot gear and wielding batons began dispersing a crowd of Donald Trump supporters and protesters here Friday night after the presumptive GOP nominee held a rally.

After issuing orders to the crowd of roughly 1,000 to disperse, police began forcefully and aggressively pushing protesters, checking them with their batons. At least 35 people were arrested, police said.
Even as there was no room to move, police officers continued to push protesters and reporters, with some toppling over in the fray. Police pepper-sprayed several protesters.
In a message to the San Diego Police Department, Trump applauded the officers' response to the protesters.
"Fantastic job on handling the thugs who tried to disrupt our very peaceful and well attended rally," Trump tweeted. "Greatly appreciated."
Some protesters sitting in a public square refused to move as police officers in riot gear moved in, leading to several arrests. 
The clashes began after Trump supporters flooded into the streets following the event at the San Diego Convention Center.
A few altercations broke out between supporters of the presumptive Republican nominee and protesters opposed to his campaign, particularly Trump's views on immigration.
Scores of police officers, clad in riot gear and clutching batons, separated the two groups. As protesters and supporters lingered in the streets, some individuals on both sides began throwing eggs, bottles and other objects at each other.
As the situation intensified at moments, with several volleys of bottles being tossed between the sides, police officers moved in, forcefully and at times aggressively pushing back Trump supporters, protesters and media caught in the scrum with their batons.
But while some violent altercations did break out, the two sides mostly shouted and chanted at each other. 
Protesters, some of whom waved Mexican flags, shouted "F--- Trump" and immigration-focused slogans.
Trump supporters countered with chants of "USA, USA" and "Build that wall," prompting responses of "F--- your wall."
One man, wearing a "Free Hugs" shirt, repeatedly stepped between the two sides, seeking to prevent physical altercations.

First, kudos and a "hear, hear, good show, chap" to that good hearted lad in the "Free Hugs" shirt.

Well intended and certainly well played, even though given the tone of the Trump Show to date, wearing a "Free Hugs" T to a Donald rally is a little like wearing a Stephen Hawking T to a Hank Jr. concert.

Meanwhile, back to the protest.

Watching various and sundry news panel shows over the last few days/weeks, it occurs that one bubble keeps rising to the top of the fizz and fuss, but no one, yet, has proffered the proper pin to pop it.

A non-Trump supporter/advocate/spokesperson/zealot makes an observation about something rude, crude, hateful, spiteful, cheap, low blow, et al, ad nauseum, E Pluribus Unum things that their great orange hope has said or done and the applicable Trump supporter/advocate/spokesperson/zealot immediately offers rebuttal, refutation and/or rationalization, usually including some kind of pivot in the direction of Hillary, Bernie or Barack.

Something along the lines of "well, those who are supporting Mr. Trump are simply expressing their long simmering resentment of the same old same old politics of promises and lies, promises and lies, promises and practiced by, most notably......(wait for it).....Secretary Clinton....Senator Sanders....President Obama..."

The level of Trump love/obsession can usually be measured by whether or not the speaker uses the term "President Obama", "Barack Obama" or, often, with just a soupcon of sneer, "Obama".

Pert near eight years, second of two terms pretty much drawing to a close and the bile is still so high up in their throats that they can't bring themselves to refer to the guy as "President".

Nope. No Ahab like obsession (or do the scratch test and find definitive signs of racism) there, let's move along. Nothing to see.

Meanwhile, as to the protestors who are daring to show the insolence of expressing their resentment at the rude, crude, hateful, spiteful, cheap, low blow, et al, ad nauseum, E Pluribus Unum things that their great orange hope has said or done?

Agitators. Losers. Fools and "libtards" who are just too damn stupid to see Hillary for the lying, murdering, evil bitch she is or Bernie for the hippy dippy Socialist loony tune he is.

They're the reason the streets are filled with anger. They're the reason there are protests in the street.

They're the reason that Mr. Trump's reasonable, mature, thoughtful insightful followers can't just gather together in peace and harmony to show their support and hear more of the masterfully thought out specific details of all the plans that their candidate has made to make America great again.

Yeah, yeah, very peaceful, model citizens, darn those "thugs", yada, yada.

Let's get back to that bubble I mentioned a few minutes ago.

But, first, in order to prevent as much "pivoting" as possible from the Defenders of the Donald, let's try this.

For the sake of discussion, let's pretend that we all, all of us, each and every ding dang one of us, agree on the following:

All of the candidates have given us valid reasons to oppose/dislike/disagree with/reject and/or resent them.

So, let's don't talk content. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Let's talk style. Nothing more. Zip zero nada.

Love her, hate her, wish her well, wish her an ending like Jimmy Hoffa, Hillary's presentation style is basically garden variety, business as usual campaigning.

Love him, hate him, wish him well, wish him into the cornfield, Bernie's presentation style is basically garden variety, business as usual campaigning.

Love him, hate him, wish him well, wish him back into the reality show that is 99% show and 1% reality, Donald's presentation style is anything but basic, garden variety, business as usual campaigning.

Assuming what a majority of us would define, based on fairness, common sense and an historical tradition of uplift and enlightening, as inspirational, none of the three tentatives/presumptives are inspiring us.

But of the three, only one candidate has opted to replace inspiring with inciting.

Three guesses and the first two don't count.

Even those political pundits who loudly and proudly shout out their opposition to the guy and articulately warn of the dangers of actually electing him President admit that Donald Trump is, if he is absolutely nothing else, possessed of an uncommon talent at working people into such a frenzy that they would do whatever he asked of them.

Cue Don Quixote here.

The thing is, my fellow 'Muricans is that this ain't no impossible dream.

This is real deal, Katy bar the door, kick the tires and light the fires shit pot stirring.

A style successfully employed throughout history by a host of successful shit pot stirrers.

Leaders of lynch mobs.

World leaders from the school of conquest and nuclear warheads in their backpacks.

Self proclaimed saviors with a pair of cool shades and a vat full of Kool-Aid.

By the way, at this point, this whole history of people stirring emotions and getting a lot of other people lathered up enough to follow blindly starts to shed a little light on all those controversial comparisons of Trump to Hitler that got the faithful all hot and bothered a while back.

People say that Trump is actually just like Hitler.

But I'm not saying that.

I'm just saying that people say that.

And there it is.

The bubble. The thing. The tell. The part of the magic trick that you don't see as it's going down, but is absolutely critical to pulling off the illusion.

Let's call it "the wink".

The technique that Trump is using to so masterfully mesmerize those who are...well, mesmerized.

Stirring up a global sized cauldron of passion and anger and frustration and venom and vitriol and viciousness and bigotry and hatred....while seeming to never lay a hand on, or anywhere near, the big spoon stirring it.

And the really remarkable thing here is that this manic magic is, once you get a peek at the "how to" video, absolutely nothing more than a noisier, more grandiose updating of a stunt we used to pull on each other when we were ten years old.

Grab the other kid's arm, use it to smack them in the face and keep chanting "why are you hitting yourself ?...why are you hitting yourself?"

Trump's mastery of the technique also includes the illusion of validation from others.

"...I'm not saying that Megyn Kelly is a bimbo who was on the rag during the first debate...but people tell me that she is...and was..."

"...I'm not saying that Carly Fiorina is ugly and nobody would vote for somebody with that face...but people tell me that she is and they wouldn't..."


"...I don't have a clue as to what this economic policy I'm going to offer means...but there are people who know a lot about economics who tell me that it's a good plan....a terrific plan..."


And then there's that zany little business about inciting people to hatred and/or violence.
Here's just one tiny tidbit of the eloquence and inspirational presentation of the Republican Party nominee for the office of President of the United States.

The protests, and accompanying anger and violence, in San Diego and, bet the black belt, kids, yet to come between now and, at the very least, November, are nothing more than the inevitable result of a irrefutable scientific fact.
Put a flame next to a flammable source and blazing fire will occur.
Through circumstance, fate, divine providence or just pure dumb damn luck, Donald Trump has been handed a global megaphone.
He, alone, decides how to use it.
He has chosen, thus far, to use it to incite, not inspire.
He has chosen to play to, and capitalize on, people's fear, anger, frustration and, in doing so, further energizes and inflames that fear, anger and frustration.
For those still a little fuzzy on the distinction between inspire and incite:



As to that distinctive discoloration in Donald's own face?
Well, some of it is obviously poor tanning technique.
But, something tells me that some, if not a lot of it, is the result of Donald's eyes opening and shutting a lot more than the average in the course of a little gesture that some of us use when we want others to know that we're just screwing with them or that we've put something over on someone.
Keep in mind, I'm not saying that Donald Trump is winking at his legions as he disrespects and denigrates pretty much everything that indicates class act behavior.
But people are telling me that's exactly what he's doing.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"...Oh, Say Can You See..."

Historically, America admires politicians with vision.

There's just something about candidates who offer us the adventure and/or excitement of what waits for us just over the next horizon that makes it hard to resist flipping the little switch next to that candidate's name.

Yeah, we're all pretty down with that vision thing.

Not a lot of it to be seen this time around, though.

Oh, the fervent faithful will counter that their particular favorite son or daughter, be they a Donald or a Bernie or a Hillary, do, too, have vision.

But the vision I'm talking about is the kind that inspires us to ask what we can do for our country.

Not the kind that incites us to get excited about a wall that will surround our country.

Promises, pandering, defiance, demagoguery, frantic and freewheelin' fear mongering?

Oh, yeah. The still tentative trio are offering that up by the barge full.


Nah, not really.

But, the candidates aren't the only ones who are lacking vision this go round.

John and Jane American Voter are pretty lacking, too.

And it's that lack of vision that explains a lot about why Donald continues to do and say pretty much everything wrong and, yet, still be seen by so many as oh so right.

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM's weekly program "The Dean Obeidallah Show," a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his

(CNN) Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word to describe Donald Trump's recent attacks on Bill Clinton's past alleged sexual misconduct from the 1990s. We really need to come up with a new term and maybe call it "pulling a Trump."

Who could have ever predicted that Trump, who had publicly defended Bill Clinton in the 1990s when these allegations first surfaced, and even cruelly slammed the women who made the accusations, would now try to make Bill's conduct an issue? 

Thankfully, Tuesday on CNN's "New Day," Chris Cuomo pressed Trump campaign surrogate and lawyer Michael Cohen on this issue in what turned out to be truly a master class in cross-

examination. Cuomo started out by sharing his view that Trump raising this issue was "bad for him" since Trump "defended Bill Clinton for years" against these very claims.

Cuomo specifically noted that Trump had in the past said the "same allegations you guys are talking about now were a waste of time, were wrong, were hollow, that Bill Clinton was a terrific guy, that he was a great president, that the impeachment was wrong."

The CNN host further exposed Trump's hypocrisy by highlighting that Trump had not only defended Bill Clinton, but Trump went a step further. He had publicly shamed Clinton's accusers. For example, Cuomo noted that Trump called Paula Jones, who alleged Clinton sexually harassed her, a "loser." And in regard to Linda Tripp from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Trump had called her a "lying loser" and "the personification of evil." 

Cohen's response was why the word facepalm was invented. He told Cuomo that Trump only said those remarks because "he was being a true friend," adding, "it didn't matter to him at that point in time."

Hmmm, so to Trump, publicly shaming Clinton's accusers as "liars" and "evil" is just what friends do for each other? Interesting idea of friendship.

Cohen then tried to stop the beating Cuomo was inflicting on him by begging to talk about more current issues. OK, let's do just that. If Trump truly believed that Clinton was a sexual predator who assaulted numerous women, then why did Trump passionately praise Bill in a 2012 interview on Fox News?

And I don't mean Trump offered a few niceties in a perfunctory manner. Rather, Trump was like a gushing schoolboy with a crush on both Hillary and Bill Clinton in this must-see interview.
First Trump stated that Hillary, who he now calls an "enabler" of Bill's infidelity, was "a terrific woman." Adding, "I mean I'm a little biased because I've known her for years."

And then, in regard to Bill, he gushed, "I've known her and her husband for years and I really like them both a lot." He went on to say that Bill had just days before the interview made a speech at Trump's Mar-a-Lago private club that was "very well received." Trump then praised Bill again, calling him "a really good guy." 

Of course, this raises the question of who allows a person you truly believe is a serial sexual predator to give a speech at your private club? Add to that, who would donate over $100,000 to that guy's foundation? 

But that's exactly what Trump did with his donation to the Clinton Foundation, a not-for-profit organization started by Bill after he left the White House. (It's unclear the exact amount Trump donated but the Clinton Foundation's website indicates it's somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000.00.) 

And that doesn't even include the seven donations that Trump made to Hillary's past campaigns for the U.S. Senate and even to her 2008 presidential run.

What also makes this line of attack by Trump so bizarre is his well-documented record of abusively sexist comments. And we aren't just talking years ago, when as Megyn Kelly pointed out at a debate, Trump publicly called women he disliked, "fat pigs," "dogs," "slobs," and "disgusting animals." 

During this campaign he mocked Carly Fiorina's face saying, "Would anyone vote for that?" And of course Trump called Kelly a "bimbo" and suggested she was menstruating during the first GOP debate. 

Is Trump crazy like a fox? Or is he simply a guy who can't help but angrily respond to any attack upon on him and one without any master plan? Who knows, but as long as TV hosts challenge Trump and his surrogates like Cuomo did Tuesday, at least his incredible hypocrisy will be on view for all to see.

Since the moment it became obvious that the Trump candidacy was no joke and that his call to arms was actually being answered by millions and not just limited to those who think Freebird ranks with the finest work of Mozart and Beethoven and think Duck Dynasty should have long ago beaten out NOVA for that Peabody Award thing, an even larger number of people have been collectively shaking their heads in wonder, even bewilderment, that the Trump call to arms is being answered by so many and more than a few of those people have been collectively wondering, even asking loudly, when those arms call answerers are going to finally see this guy for the misogynist hypocrite bully that he is.

Here's a simple, albeit unfortunate, answer to that question.


Jeb Bush, in a recent interview, remarked that it was both unkind, and essentially incorrect, to label and dismiss people who very clearly see and hear the outrageous, egregious, even neurotic and/or psychotic things that Trump does and says, as they are often labeled these days, as stupid or idiots.

First, because if there truly are that many stupid and/or idiotic people walking upright amongst us with the right to vote, not to mention the right to bear arms, then we've got far larger problems than the mass support of a screamingly unsuitable candidate for the office of President of the United States.

But, more importantly, and Jeb strikes nail squarely on head here, because that's a misread of the mindset of those many who have supported and voted for the guy thus far.

And who are fully and zealously prepared to support and vote for the guy all the way to the point of watching him review the floats in the Inaugural Parade while somebody texts the nuclear launch codes to his IPad.

These folks, Bush the younger insightfully offers, are often, and in large measure, neither stupid nor idiotic, neither necessarily lacking in cognitive reasoning skills nor deficient in essentially humane core values.

They are, Jeb suggests, simply scared.

They are scared of the world we're living in circa 2016 and the threats both foreign and domestic that threaten us. They are scared of the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness that the disappearance of conventional enemies and the emergence of terrorist enemies conjures up in us all. They are scared of an economy so clearly commandeered, and operated, by a select group of powerful people who, seemingly at a whim, could send us all back to a yesteryear of long unemployment lines and/or selling apples on the street. They are scared of crime and disease and perversion and evil in all the forms it has traditionally taken and the new, even more insidious forms it is taking on with each new day. They are scared that someone is going to come kicking in their door in the middle of the night and rape their women, kill their children and confiscate their weapons, leaving them defenseless and powerless to fight back against terrors seen, unseen....

...and even imagined, thanks to the powers of suggestion, the human personality quirk of too easily believing without any effort made actually confirming and the dynamic, but always potentially devious and destructive, power of social media.


In that light, it's not only understandable, it's expected that a large number of people would easily, fervently and immediately, support, even love, the idea of someone coming along who seems to hold the promise of dealing swiftly and surely with those enemies foreign and domestic, enemies both seen and unseen, taking control back from those powerful few in corrupted command of our economy, take not just a bite out of crime, but chew it up and spit it out as harmless bits and pieces, repair and replace a still antiquated and woefully inadequate health care system, end crime, stop perversion and not only reinforce the locks and bars on that door preventing any late night invasion, but insuring that, in a worst case, no harm would ultimately come to women or children because nighttime terror would be kicking its way into a household rightfully bearing arms and stunningly locked and loaded.

Understandable, even expected, that so many would love the idea of someone coming along promising to do all that for us.

No matter how much actual and real possibility does, or does not, exist inside each promise.

Especially after so many years, even generations, of being lied to in the same old ways by the same old politicians, time after time after time after time.

Make America Great Again.

Who amongst us would reject the possibility, even the tiniest sliver of hope, that was really and genuinely possible?

Even if that possibility came in the form of promises from a misogynist hypocrite bully?

It isn't that even the most zealous supporters of Donald Trump don't see and hear the man for what he is.

And they don't necessarily love the man for what he promises.

They simply love the idea that there might be a chance, even an ice cube's chance, that the guy can deliver on even a few of the promises that he's making.

For the most part, there's nothing wrong with their vision or their ability to see and hear what is plain and obvious before them.

And they're not stupid nor idiots.

They simply love the idea.

And love is blind.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"...After The (Inaugural) Ball Is Over..."

Remarkable film already available on a flat screen near you.

With a title that has a remarkable relevance to what's going on in 2016 America.

 Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)The release of HBO's "All The Way," a remake of Robert Schenkkan's brilliant Tony-award winning play about President Lyndon Johnson, is a welcome break in this anti-political campaign season. (HBO is owned by CNN's corporate parent Time Warner.)

The film offers a compelling account of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the presidential election of 1964, blending a dramatic recreation of the events that took place in these years with actual dialogue drawn from White House telephone recordings. 

While the film's creators take liberties in how they tell this story, the essence of the film effectively captures the kind of deal-making that was essential to pass the legislation known as the Great Society. While we think of this decade as the heyday of liberalism, the truth is that the forces of conservatism were strong in Congress and the divisions among Democrats were intense.

While most recent accounts of LBJ have emphasized his apparently magical ability to make things happen as the wizard of Washington, this film reveals a President struggling through bitter battles. This is a Johnson operating in a challenging political environment populated by southern Democrats such as Richard Russell, Republicans such as Everett Dirksen, liberals such as James Coleman of California, grassroots activists such as Stokely Carmichael, and malicious forces inside the government like FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Although there are many moments where we see LBJ leaning in on his opponents and allies to get what he wants, there are many others where we watch the limits of presidential power.

The film highlights a debate over voting rights, which LBJ insists on taking out of the Civil Rights bill, and focusing instead on desegregation. In truth, voting rights were no longer a central part of the legislation once Johnson became president, though the film uses the issue to effectively convey the kinds of compromises Johnson was forced to make.

We do see Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen insisting on weakening regulations on employment discrimination, which is a key area where the administration agreed to soften the bill beyond the comfort level of many liberals. This comes right out of the history books. In exchange, Dirksen delivered enough Republican votes to end a filibuster. The following year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

LBJ, the chess player

The film accurately captures the way LBJ, like a chess player, was constantly trying to figure out how to align all the various policies he hoped to push with the difficult realities of Capitol Hill.

At one point in the film, we see the President lying in bed broken out in sweat and trapped in frustration as he explains to his wife Lady Bird in a despondent fashion that basically nobody likes him. The scene effectively captures the kind of torment which is evident on many of the phone recordings, where we can hear Johnson complaining to colleagues about how he never received credit for his achievements.

Each legislative victory seemed to bring him more critics. Throughout the film, he repeatedly tells people that passage of a civil rights bill will require major concessions from all sides.

"This is not about principle, it's about votes," Johnson barks out in one of the great lines of the film.

Schenkkan's dialogue captures the essential outlook of LBJ, even though he takes liberties with the chronology at points. We lionize Johnson for his ability to use power to get what he wanted but in fact his biggest skill was understanding the limits of the presidency and knowing when to cut deals, as difficult as they could be.

He forces civil rights leaders to accept that certain goals will have to be postponed until the following year (like voting rights) and warns southern leaders that they can't keep saying "no," because some form of a Civil Rights bill was going to pass. "Now I love you more than my own daddy. But if you get in my way, I'll crush you," Johnson threatens Sen. Richard Russell, his close friend and mentor at a private dinner in the White House.

MLK's anguish

The other main protagonist in the film, Martin Luther King, also is depicted as having a keen understanding that one of his most important roles would be to broker agreement among the civil rights leaders portrayed in the film and to sell the movement leaders compromise ideas that the administration was willing to push for. 

While Johnson had been hoping that the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City would be a celebration of his achievements and his potential, the plans were upset when African-American activists arrived as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and insisted they be seated instead of the lily white official delegation that was there.

The film recounts the bitter negotiations that took place, with spokesmen for the President seeking to defuse the challenge by the activists who had risked their lives by protesting in Mississippi despite violent police and racist organizations and traveling on roads that were not safe for African-Americans.

At one key moment, Johnson sends the labor leader Walter Reuther to speak with the frustrated delegation. Reuther warns that if they don't accept the deal the administration was offering (to seat two at-large delegates from the delegation and promise that future conventions would be desegregated), the unions would cut off all the funding for the movement. The movement leaders accepted the deal to the consternation of many young activists.

King, realizing that he was out of options, sits quietly as his fellow leaders vent their enormous frustration with this outcome. This is one of the most disappointing moments in the history of the civil rights movement, a decision that left many younger activists disillusioned with the leadership. But in this film, the negotiations are depicted through the prism of a world in which this was the best option on the table at the moment. 

The Martin Luther King portrayed in this film is not the famous orator or committed and fearless activist, but the quiet and calculating political leader who understood that these kinds of deals were necessary to achieve outcomes.

The appreciation for realism is clear in how the film treats the difficult issue of wiretapping. In Ava DuVernay's 2014 film "Selma," she depicted an adversarial relationship between King, as he fought for voting rights in 1965, and LBJ, who, in the film, has little enthusiasm for the bill and seems willing to let FBI director Hoover conduct his ruthless covert wiretapping campaign against the civil rights leader.

In "All The Way," we watch a dance between two leaders who realize they will inevitably disappoint their allies but who are working as hard as possible within the immense constraints they face to make sure they don't lose this unique moment to obtain a bill. In this movie, Johnson clearly wants much more and sympathizes with the movement, but realizes as a seasoned politician that achieving wholesale change in race relations would require incremental steps.

"All The Way" should be required viewing in this polarized electoral atmosphere. The rhetoric in the 2016 election has been very different than the world depicted in the film. Democrats have been animated by candidate Bernie Sanders, who appeals to idealism and insists on political purity as the only antidote to the political problems we face today. Many voters have been unimpressed by the inevitable nominee, Hillary Clinton, who has spent her life in public service and believes that compromise is the only way to move liberalism forward.

Clinton might want to watch the film to look for some inspiration about how hard-nosed political pragmatism has been essential to progressive breakthroughs.

The critical changes that took place in those years offer some powerful evidence about why some of the critiques coming from Sanders supporters about who Clinton is and what she can accomplish are off the mark. Johnson was as hard-nosed and devious as they come, yet until 1966 he was able to use those attributes to vastly expand the social safety net in ways that continue to shape American society.

The film is also a warning to Clinton, who has tended to veer toward the more hawkish spectrum, about the costs that can come from bad wars to a liberal agenda. Though the film only covers the beginning of the escalation into the Vietnam conflict with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, we see how LBJ's political and hawkish instincts planted the seeds for his self-destruction. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm not usually much for "reviews" of films.

Every, and each, art form is a subjective work, eye of the beholder, different strokes, yada, yada.

But, regardless of my, again, subjective agree/disagree level here (and, for what ever difference it might make, I'm solidly in the agree column on this review and this movie), I'm recommending that you give this film a view.

Because it points out, in an entertaining and interesting fashion (think "spoonful of sugar"), a very important cog in the wheel of American Presidential politics that is conspicuously clack causing by its absence in the three way 2016 grudge match between Hillary the Hated, Donald The Demagogue and Bernie The Benevolent.

As recently as this past week, the topic of "end game" once again came up on the talk radio show I was hosting. Friday's program, in fact, was a panel show featuring three local friends/peers/neighbors, from assorted walks of life, with assorted and diverse philosophical back stories. 

And when the conversation eventually, and inevitably, turned to the surreal reality show I've more than once nicknamed "Survivor-The Electoral College", we shared our respective P.O.V's on the state of the nation, the state of the race and the state of things in general.

Not so coincidentally, Lyndon Johnson's name found its way into our on air back and forth.

I say not so coincidentally because, while I would love to take credit for having some superior Spidey sense about topics both timely and topical, the truth is that I knew that the HBO movie was scheduled for a Saturday night debut, not to mention I'm currently concurrently reading two different books about Presidential politics and/or the LBJ period in U.S. history.

That didn't take away from the fact that I have been talking, here and there, every now and then, for months, about Lyndon Johnson and the style of governing and/or leadership that he brought to the table in the mid 1960's.

And his masterful use of the cog that I mentioned is missing in this year's "We The People Edition of Wheel of Fortune".

While Johnson wasn't the first, or even necessarily the best, in Hail to the Chief history when it came to masterful piloting of the ship of state, he was, by most current reckonings, the most recent and, arguably, the last one we've seen since.

And "All The Way" does a masterful job of illustrating just exactly what was, and, for that matter, still is, required to move past the talking of the talk and get down to the walking of the walk when it comes to moving America forward.

Or, as seems to be what the crowd these days is clamoring for, making America great again.

"....... in fact his biggest skill was understanding the limits of the presidency and knowing when to cut deals, as difficult as they could be...."

Which brings us back to the "end game" I've been bell clanging about for a while now.

The history of American politics is chock-a-block full of battles and backbiting, struggles and sneak attacks, adversaries and animosities, but, throughout that history, in, arguably, the larger measure, the end game was always to move us forward as a people and as a nation.

And the truest, most legitimate patriots amongst us have always understood that the ultimate goal is not, and can never be, simply the defeat and/or destruction of the opposition.

Due respect to Bernie and his supporters, the prevailing winds, at this writing, blow ill at his chances of being on the final ballot.

So, assuming it comes down to Clinton and Trump....

Trump supporters, both those convinced he is the one true god of all things politic and those who are resigned to awarding Donald the "lesser of the evil" ribbon, are caught up in the frenzy generated by a guy who is, with a true and unprecedented genius for marketing the right product at the right time, making a lot of promises he is simply unlikely to be able to keep accentuated by massive doses of that tried and true method of swaying sentiment, telling people only and exactly what they want to hear.

Bold or brave or brazen or bullshit, as the case may be.

Hillary supporters, meanwhile, both those who are convinced that the time for a woman to be elected President is now, regardless of any dings or dents or wobbly wheels on this particular model, and those who are resigned to vote for anyone on the ballot who isn't Donald Trump are caught up in the frenzy generated by a woman who is, well, a woman. 

And who isn't Donald Trump.

Come to think of it, it's probably Hillary's (remains to be seen) good fortune that this turned out to be the year that a lot of America decided to finally and actually pull the trigger on the oft loaded but never before fired gun they wave around every four years with screams of "throw the bums out..." and "we're mad as hell and we're not gonna...." blah blah.

Because given a more traditional choice, voters might have found a number of more reasonable and insightful reasons to pass on Hillary besides the three qualities to which her detractors seem to limit themselves.


All of that said, here's the thing about that cog that's missing.

Lyndon Johnson understood, even amidst the power playing and ego stroking and self loathing and intrinsically selfish human behavior that the finest act of genuine commitment to America a President can offer is the act of putting country, the whole country and everybody in it, ahead of self.

And to get, you sometimes, even often, have to give.

Trump supporters, at this point in the proceedings, are likely already writing the posts for the comment thread touting Donald's "business success" and skill at the "art of the deal."

Conveniently disregarding that every word spoken and/or written by or about Trump indicates that his definition of "give" is "give me what I want or I'll sue you or Tweet you to death."

Pretty sure that America wouldn't have ever been the "great" to which Donald wants to return us if the 42 previous guys to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave had been advocates of the "my way or the highway" school of Chief Exec-uting".

And Hillary?

Well, if we can somehow flip off the "WE HATE HER AND WE WANT HER TO DIE" switch for just a minute, an objective look at what she's offering doesn't have the look, feel or smell of a whole lot more than a lot more of the same old same old.

And, suddenly, Dr. Phil pops to mind.

"How's that workin' for ya?"

Believe it or not, though, there does seem to be one quality/trait/quirk/glitch both the Lady and The Trump share.

They really, really, really want to be President.

And they are pulling out every stop they know how to stop pull to get the job.

It's worth mention that the title of the article written by Professor Zelizer as posted on is "LBJ's Secret To Getting Things Done".

Assuming that particular title isn't just (and one can't help but suspect/assume that it is) one more "sexy/mysterious/ultimately horse hockey" way of getting people's attention, the word "secret" both caught my eye and gave me a little chuckle.

For two reasons.

First, because just a little bitty bit of reading a little more American history and a little less "are Blake and Gwen really engaged" on TMZ will enlighten you, in a heartbeat, that it's not really a secret at all.

It's just a cog in the wheel that turns the generator that moves a nation forward to, hopefully, a better place for you and your kids.

And the second reason for the chuckle?

LBJ's "secret" to getting things done.

The secret was getting things done.

And the cog is not just getting the job.

But also, and ultimately, getting the job done.

For the people...and the nation....

All of the people.

The whole nation.

That's how the true patriots amongst us take us "all the way".


Saturday, May 21, 2016

" A Goverment Fore! The People..."

Hello, I'm Scott Edward Phelps.

Many of you may know me as the producer and host of SEP Daytime, a blog and vidcast site found online in a browser near you. Or perhaps you've been a listener and/or caller to some of the talk radio stations where I host, among then, Delaware 105.9 FM News Talk Radio.

But, today, I'm here to talk to you about a subject that touches all our lives, an affliction that threatens our well being as citizens, even as a nation itself, a physiological challenge that blocks our path to a brighter tomorrow for ourselves, our kids and our kids' kids, whether we are black, Caucasian, Latino, Native American or simply identify as any one or any combination of those; whether we are heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, metro sexual, overtly sexual or Miley Cyrus; whether we are L or G or B or T or former Olympic decathlon gold medal winners turned reality show transgenders who feel both out of place and, at the same time, perfectly at home in every and all public rest rooms.

I'm talking about muscle memory.

Once again, as history, tradition and Constitutional edict dictate, we find ourselves in the midst of yet another historic, traditional and Constitutionally edict-ed election year, the 45th time, in fact, in our national history that America has been faced with and/or offered, depending on your glass half empty, glass half full view of life, a choice of candidates campaigning, cajoling, crusading and/or caterwauling their way back and forth across the lower 49 in search of enthusiasm for,  but, more importantly, endorsement of, their particular candidacy.

By the way, the purists and/or nitpickers amongst us are probably busy at work picking the nit that this particular Presidential power play is, actually, the 44th and not the 45th given that the current President is actually the 43rd man to inhabit the office. The confusion arises because Grover Cleveland was actually elected twice, at separate times, making him both the 22nd AND the 24th President but in terms of actual elections held, we're talking 45 as of this year and not 44.

That particular clarification, of course, matters only to scholars, historians and those guys you look at once and assume they're still living in their Mom's basements.

As far as "traditional" goes, meanwhile, the decision process of 2016 is, to any reasonable observer, as far from traditional as far from traditional can get.

At this point in the narrative, our three leading contenders are, in no particular order of preference and/or endorsement:

1.  A much revered while much reviled United States Senator who has captured the hearts and spirits of millions of Americans with his electric, albeit eccentric, quest to give hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and defeat to...the defeat-less...all the while burdened by the perception that all the money and benefits and extra goodies that he wants to give to THEM will come from YOU.

2. A much revered while much reviled mega-millionaire (he says mega-billionaire), multi-married, meglomaniacal (he says he loves everybody, especially the Mexicans) reality show starring, real estate wheeler dealer who has never been elected to anything in his life but has blustered, bloviated, battered and abused his way to within one remaining election of becoming the first mega-millionaire, multi-married megalomaniac to ever become President of the United States.

3. And...a much revered while much reviled former senator, former Secretary of State, former First Lady and, unless there's a stunningly unexpected Jenner like bombshell yet to be detonated, the first woman to get this close to actually being elected President of the United States (assuming, of course, that she neither loses her quest for the nomination to the aforementioned electric eccentric nor suddenly finds her path blocked by one of those pesky indictments for a Federal crime).

Clearly, as "traditional" goes, this crazy cluster of finalists, as does poorly placed explosives in a beat up old lawn mower being used as a target, blows the doors off.

Or, of course, leg as the case may be.

Comedic cast of characters and the angry, frustrated, venomous, vitriolic, oh, hell, let's just call it what it is, okay, WWE Smackdown of a campaign aside, there's something so deeply ingrained in the process that it will, despite any efforts by anyone in any way, shape or form, prevent us from ever truly settling our respective differences, let alone bring us together on that poetic path to patriotic productivity and an almost Kumbayah-like atmosphere of truly joining together as "we, the people".

Again, that insidious instigator of inflammatory indictments of one another.

Muscle memory.

Because, you see, this particularly historic, while egregiously nontraditional, quest for the keys to that cool house of white there in downtown D.C. has, at the very least, shined a very bright light on what our once upon a time, not quite, but actually, uh, yeah, President, Al Gore refers to as "an inconvenient truth" when it comes to the mindset of the respective American voter.

Hearts and spirits are available for the capture.

But changing somebody's mind?

As Donald's very good, good friends might put it....

"No way, Jose".

Lot of talk this time around about how divided we are as a nation.

No credible argument there.


But, while that's obvious and unfortunate, it's also understandable.

We've always been divided.

The myth of "we, the people" is, for lack of a more accurate word, myth.

There have always been conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, Whigs and Federalists, pro-choicers and pro-lifers, Christians and atheists, extremists and moderates, wisdom seekers and wack job asshats, disscussionists and demagogues, CNNers and FOX News-ers, yins and yangs, uppers and downers...

...heavy on the onions....hold the onions.

We are what we are and...cue The Turtles, words and music by P.F. Sloan.

"I am what I am / and that's all I ever can be..."

Even allowing for the inevitable "exceptions to the rule" in the form of those who, after effort or epiphany, find themselves at a change of heart and/or mind, we are, by habit and nature, in the larger number, the product of years of conditioning. Conditioning provided , or inflicted upon us (again, half full/half empty) by upbringing, elementary and/or advanced education, family influence/pressure, peer influence/pressure, cultural currents and a host of other factors, visible and invisible, that define us, our values and our positions on the issues which require a position.

And when it comes to political perspective, there's something about the unique and impossible to break down recipe of our own individual concoctions that makes changing flavors, or horses, mid-stream or elsewhere, an, at best, difficult and challenging task, even when we feel motivated to try and seek a change for ourselves.

Which we very often, in fact, more often than not, do not.

The illusion that elections, especially Presidential elections, are a panacea for our national ills, cracks and/or crevices is simply, and inevitably, just that.

An illusion.

And all the "momentum" that this candidate or that candidate can inspire, incite, create and/or conjure up might give the big bad boulder of societal progress a little nudgy here and there, from time to time, but it is not now, nor will it ever be, a match for that combination/affliction ingrained in every one of us.

Muscle memory.

Blair O'Neal is a golfer and model who co-hosts "Golf Channel Academy" on The Golf Channel. Not long ago, a friend and fellow golfer of mine were talking about the Channel and the various tips, useful and otherwise, offered. I remarked that, me being me, I found one particular quirk of O'Neal's presentations to be both interesting and amusing.

Frequently, on the "Academy" show, the other co-host, Martin Hall, uses "this is how you don't do it" examples by way of highlighting how best to learn the correct way of making various golf shots. O'Neal assists him by being the "player" literally illustrating the example.

O'Neal is clearly an accomplished golfer with obvious years of training and practice on her resume. Even a non-golfer can recognize that her swing is specifically defined and, again, obviously, the end product of those years of training and practice.

Put simply, her golf swing is deeply grooved.

The interesting, amusing and, telling, quirk comes into play, pun unintended, but inevitable, when O'Neal sets up under Hall's direction to intentionally "mis-swing" for the purpose of demonstration.

Clearly, O'Neal is ready and willing to "mis-fire" and pays close attention to every piece of the instruction Hall gives her to "incorrectly" demonstrate.

From a slightly different stance, to swinging back too much up or out, to down-swinging too much out and/or around and following through either poorly or not at all, the "dry run" of the illustration is diligently "rehearsed" each time by O'Neal.

And then, Hall steps back and lets the audience watch O'Neal "mis-swing" for real in its entirety.

And every time, O"Neal sets up as instructed, addresses the ball, pauses for a moment....

...and, then, swings back, down and through in exactly the same deeply grooved fashion that she has honed through years of training and practice.

Every. Single. Time.

Muscle memory.

When applied to a political perspective, it doesn't take a lot of introspection, or insight, to see what an obstacle muscle memory is to any hope of smoother sailing on the good ship, U.S.S U.S of A.

Progress, in any form, results from a combination of core values and the ability, not to mention wisdom, to be flexible and open minded, navigating with the intent to arrive safely and successfully.

Not petty, stubborn, angry standing of ground for no other purpose than petty, stubborn angry standing of ground.

For those football enthusiasts in the crowd here, it's about having a good, solid, trustworthy playbook but also the smarts to recognize the need to call an audible, along with the smarts and talent to actually call one and pull it off.

The process of choosing the next President, sadly, much like the process of governing in this country, has mutated from a spirited, even passionate "duel" between adversaries with an ultimate goal of accomplishing a higher purpose into a passionate, even hostile "battle" between opposing sides with no other apparent goal than simply to both assert self righteousness and/or thoroughly and, ideally, brutally eliminate the opposition.

What's been missing from this campaign and, tragically, as opposed to historically, makes it unique is any obvious indication that positive, productive, inspiring change is actually a considered outcome.

Let alone a possible one.

Because what's egregiously present in this campaign is another part of that "inconvenient truth" we talked about earlier.

No matter what effort, sincere or devious, is made to recruit the masses into a compromising spirit of finding a way to somehow make the system viable and livable for everyone, that effort is doomed by that intractable, even unassailable, tendency that we all have to hold fast, hard and true to whatever we want, the way we want it, when we want it.

A tendency that we once seemed to be able to manage, if not completely control.

These days?

We can listen to every word spoken to us by someone with an opposing point of view and even if we have every good intention of giving that point of view a fair shake, the end result will be the same.

We'll swing the way we were taught to swing.

The way we've swung after years of conditioning, training and practice.

In politics, like in golf, it's called muscle memory.